Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tree Shaped Tombstones. More examples, more mysteries.

Sometimes a topic keeps turning up at Detritus of Empire for no reason other than that I find it interesting. 

I continue to collect examples of Tree Shaped Tombstones, but am really no farther along in my understanding of them.

For instance....

Most Americans are fairly open minded regarding religion.  But in matters of life and death they have historically preferred to hedge their bets just a little.  Hence the common situation of having both Catholic and Protestant affiliated hospitals in many cities, even when logic would suggest that a single institution would serve better.  You would not want to die in the "wrong" place.

And of course we have cemeteries devoted to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and I suppose Muslim faiths.

When wandering about the Protestant cemetery I found lots of "Trees".  But across the road which, along with the whole Reformation thing, divides the departed of various faiths, I found no similar tombstones.  The cemeteries were of similar age.  The demographics of the two communities were similar.  But no tree shaped tombstones on the Catholic side.

It got me wondering.  At various times in history Catholics have been discouraged from joining fraternal organizations.  So maybe these generic tree tombstones really did indicate membership in the Woodmen of the World.  And maybe no Catholics were allowed in, either by the Pope or by the Woodmen.  A plausible theory that did not survive my finding this bit of evidence on the Catholic side:
And a close up:
So out the window with the no Catholics theory for the Woodmen, and a serious problem for my notion that the tree shaped tombstones were Woodmen graves that for some reason did not have the traditional Woodmen logo as shown above.  Obviously the logo was available.

In another small cemetery I found some Tree Tombstones that had a nice point-counterpoint theme:

I found the juxtaposition of the lopped off limbs and the new growing vine to be oddly comforting.  I guess in a cemetery, more than most places, you have solid evidence that another generation is always coming along.  Here are some additional examples of new growth alongside the dead lumber:

And another, the moss and lichen adds some nice color and texture:

I have also found more examples of what I call "The Family Tree", where there is a central feature and smaller little "stack of sticks" markers for individuals.  Some of the latter seem so very basic and, well, cheap.  Why would you spring for what must have been a rather pricey marker for the family plot and then remember your parents like this:

This last example was especially poignant.  All trace of identity is gone.  We would know nothing about the man who was laid to rest here if not for the GAR star stuck precariously alongside that marks him as a man who served in the Union Army in the final days of the Civil War.  One careless bump of the lawnmower and we could lose the memory of this fellow entirely.

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